Planning for any surgery can feel daunting, however preparing for surgery during a global pandemic may be quite overwhelming. Coronavirus (COVID-19) has drastically changed the way we look at our everyday life. If you are facing surgery during this time it is expected that you may be feeling extra anxious. The COVID-19 pandemic has affected health care in many ways, and it will alter what you may have envisioned your surgical journey to be. Regardless of if you are facing surgery with or without the presence of a global pandemic arming yourself with knowledge, support, and a plan will help guide you through your recovery.
Your preoperative appointments may look and feel differently these days, as you may be facing these alone due to current COVID-19 restrictions. If you are going to be attending alone take the time to sit with your support system and write down questions that you would like to have answered by your medical team. Being alone at your appointment may leave you feeling uneasy and unable to focus, it might be a good idea to plan to call your support person during your appointment and have them listen in on the phone to what your medical team is discussing. Do not hesitate to take this time to get your questions answered and write things down so you do not forget later. This appointment is the best time to understand from your surgeon about the surgery you are having, how your doctor plans to manage your pain, and what your post-surgical journey will look like.
Any type of surgery can be life changing. If your surgery will result in an ostomy you will be taking on a significant lifestyle shift. This will result in changes in your diet, physical activity, and daily life, especially in the weeks following surgery. Building a support system, especially during COVID-19, is essential when you are facing a mental and physical life change. Prior to surgery seek out and talk to other ostomates about their experiences and build your ostomy community. Ostomy patients connect and share their stories with each other all over the internet and social media. 11 Health has a Patient Coach program which provides peer-to-peer support to ostomy patients throughout their surgical journey. Our Patient Coaches have ostomies or had ostomies in the past and offer guidance, education, and emotional support. They work closely with our nurses to support patients with ostomy related health issues.
Hospitals across the country have different policies for patient visitation, as positive COVID-19 cases increase these policies have become much stricter. Checking with your hospital prior to surgery will help you prepare however keep in mind that these conditions are continuously changing to meet the safety needs of patients and hospital employees. This means that you may be alone at the hospital after your surgery. Prepare for this possibility ahead of time by making a communication plan with your family and friends. It is always a good idea to have one trusted friend or family member as your designated communicator. This would the person that you speak to and that you allow your care team to speak to. To allow yourself some rest after surgery and limit phone calls this person can update your friends and family as you wish.
After surgery you will have care providers in and out of your room during the day, starting in the early morning. It is expected to be feeling more tired, fatigued and overwhelmed after surgery. Being alone in the hospital and recovering from surgery is a barrier to communicating and learning. Calling or video chatting your support person when your healthcare team is visiting is a great way to make sure that everyone can actively participate in your healing. If you have a new ostomy set a time that your Wound Ostomy Care Nurse (WOCN) will be visiting you and video chat with the person who will be helping you when you will be discharged. If they are unable to participate at that time ask your WOCN nurse if you can record the lesson to save as a reference.
Shifting from an environment where you had unlimited support and resources to home where you are navigating a new normal can be unnerving. Recovering at home in the middle of a pandemic can might make you feel unsure when you should be contacting your WOCN, physician or going to the Emergency Room. It is important to be in touch with your healthcare team and never ignore any health concerns.
11 Health has resources to support you remotely, which may help prevent you from needing in-person medical care regarding things such as skin irritation, pouching, hydration, bag leaks, diet. Our team of patient coaches, nurses and WOCN can provide education and support from the safety and comfort from your own home. Using our SmartCare wearables has been proven to reduce readmission rates and improve outcomes. The SmartBag provides data on stoma activity, cumulative output, risk of leakage and changes in skin condition, which is remotely monitored by our support team.
As this global pandemic continuously poses new challenges and forces us to make life adjustments, our health remains a top priority. Making plans, maintaining open communication and establishing support can help prepare you and your loved ones for upcoming surgery.